From Erin: My baby, now 13 months, has always been a good little eater. She would eat anything we offered. Practically overnight, she's turned into the finicky baby. She insists on feeding herself. I'm at a loss how to creatively feed her. Her doctor suggested I try deli meats, that just doesn't seem "right" to me. She's starting to scrunch up her face at anything new offered. Please help.
Fresh Baby's Response: We hear this story a lot - It is perfectly normal to experience a few great months of eating fun with your baby, and then your cute little bundle transforms from a happy messy eater to a picky toddler with an attitude!
At 13 months old, your daughter is establishing her independence and autonomy, and with this new found independence come skepticism. A study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows just how deep this skepticism goes when is comes to eating. This study observed eating behaviors of toddlers and it concluded the average toddler may need to see a new food on their plate at least 10 times before they will eat it!
We don't suggest deli meats as a solution to cure a finicky 13 month old. Here are some tips for feeding your growing baby healthy foods with better success and sanity:
1. Always let her know what she is eating. At the beginning of each meal, point at each item on her plate and tell her what it is. The more she hears about it, the more familiar it becomes.
2. Offer new foods (or the ones she appears to not like) first and at times when she is most hungry. When children are hungry or first sit down to a meal, they will often eat without thinking about what they are eating.
3. Don't give up. Try very small portions of foods, so you can throw them out without feeling guilty about wasting food and be patient, 10 times can seem like a long time.
4. Encourage your child to "try it". Do not force her to eat, but ask her several times during a meal to "try" the new food. Show her how you "try it" too - make it look like fun to try new foods!
From Paula: We have two daughters; 7 months and 7 years old. With our first daughter, we were able to control most outside influences regarding food because it was just my husband and me. Our belief related to food is just about everything in moderation. However, we delayed candy, ice cream, juices until she started preschool. For the longest time, she thought fruit was dessert! Obviously things are going to be a little different with the new baby since we need to enlist the help of our older daughter, too. Do you have any suggestions on how we can do that smoothly. I don't want to put her in a role of monitoring her sister like that. I also don't want to deny her treats either. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.
Fresh Baby's Response: As a first step, we suggest that explain to your older daughter that she did not get candy and other treats until she was in preschool and see how big and strong she is. We want the baby to grow up big and strong just like her and some of these foods are just no healthy for babies. So you can help Mommy by not eating candy and treats in front of the baby. You may also let her that these foods can be make the baby choke easily and that can hurt her.
Including your older child as a co-conspirator is very effective. It gets much more difficult once the baby gets older and your kids are 3 and 10. Then we suggest that "the everything in moderation" attitude will be your lifeline to sanity.
Also, ensuring that your kids know what healthy food choices are and what are unhealthy food choices will help them make their own choices. They will thank you for this education some day.
From Melanie: I am desperately trying to get away from all of the processed foods we tend to eat. We're a very busy family, and I don't particularly enjoy cooking. Is everything that comes out of a box bad? I bought some "Totally Natural" boxed macaroni and cheese from the health food store, but it still had a few ingredients I couldn't pronounce. I'm confused! Thanks for your help.
Fresh Baby's Response: The labels on the processed foods can be confusing and some ingredients that sound very scientific may actually come from a natural source. While it is best to stay away from processed foods, for most people it is not very practical. Especially if you need a little extra support in the kitchen!
Here are a few tips on selecting processed foods that save time in the kitchen and are healthy:
Look for the organic label: This will ensure that the product is made with only natural ingredients - free from pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
Frozen is the best alternative to fresh fruits and vegetables: Frozen fruits/veggies are quick frozen which preserves most of the nutrients. Avoid canned fruits/veggies (except for tomatoes and beans - black, navy, pinto, etc where canned is OK). They tend to have low levels of nutrition and high levels of salt and sugar.
Avoid foods with "hydrogenated" anything in it: These foods contain trans fats and have been linked to raising LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) and lowering HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind). Trans fats are also linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Read labels for sugar, salt and fat content: Processed often contains extremely high levels of sugar, salt and fat which is unhealthy. This goes for natural, un-natural, and even organic.
From Celia: We have 3 children, ages 1, 3 and 6. We have inadvertently joined the "Clean Your Plate Club." Old habits tend to die hard. We've modified our behavior and are instead encouraging them to eat until their "tummies are full." Our 3 year old though, is notorious for snubbing dinner and asking for a snack 10 minutes after dinner. We've saved his dinner plate, etc. We're at a loss now. It doesn't matter what we offer (does it with any food). He wants to be bribed (works great with Grandma and shamefully, parents as well sometimes).
Fresh Baby's Response: As you probably know, bribery with food (or dessert) is a dangerous and slippery slope. Here are some tips that you can try to get your toddler to eat a healthy dinner without having to become a member of the "clean plate" club:
Rewards: Instead of sweets, offer a healthy reward. "Make Mommy proud and eat your dinner," "Please finish your dinner, so we can read your favorite book together," or "After you finish your dinner, you can take a nice bath."
Try counting bites: Little kids love to count. If your child is claiming he is done with his meal, after a half-hearted attempt, suggest he eat 3 more bites of each food on his plate. Count each one with him. Change the number at each meal or for different foods (4 bites of fish, 3 bites of broccoli, etc . . .)
Don't rush mealtimes: Sometimes a little time is all it takes to inspire a three year old to put fork to food and then into mouth. Give your child plenty of time to eat meals.
Be consistent, firm, and don't give up: Use the same tactics at each and every meal. Remind your child of the plan and offer plenty of encouragement. Don't give in to stubbornness.
Share these strategies with grandma and ask for her support. Requires no explanation - just a little good luck!
From Dawna: My sons are in elementary school. I pack their lunches everyday, but they're really sick of everything. In fact, I think they probably throw most of it away. Do you have any ideas for some homemade sack lunches that they'll eat?
Fresh Baby's Response: Making a good school lunch that your child will eat is always a challenge. Here are a few tips and some simple lunchbox suggestions:
Involve them: One thing that you can do is ASK your children what they want, it they make the decision they are more likely to eat it. If they don't respond, offer them a choice and let them select an option. If your boys ask for a food you don't have, add them to your shopping list. If they ask for unhealthy choices, explain to them, they are not acceptable choices.
Change it up: Sometimes the same food presented a different way is all it takes. For example with a simple sandwich you can cut it into little triangles or squares or leave wrap up the components and let your boys assemble the sandwich at school. Skip the bread and roll up lunch meat and cheese, secure it with a toothpick.
Dinner favorites are an option: Invest in a small thermos. If you have a dinner that your children really liked ask them if they would like to have some of it for lunch tomorrow (don't use the word leftovers, kids get turned off by that phrase).
Offer plenty of choices: Small servings, many choices - variety is a key to healthy eating. Providing your child with plenty of variety is not hard or time consuming. Many lunch foods can be prepared, in advance, in large quantities. Each morning, simply fill up small containers with different foods. Quick lunchbox food suggestions include:
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit pieces or a piece of whole fruit
- Applesauce (no sugar added)
- Celery sticks filled with cream cheese and raisins, or white bean dip
- Sugar snap peas with ranch dressing for dipping
- Yogurt or a smoothie
- Lunch meat roll-ups with cream cheese and an asparagus in the middle
- Hard boiled egg
- Cheese cubes or string cheese logs
- Peanut butter (or sunflower butter) and apple slices or crackers
- White bean dip or hummus with carrots and mini pita breads
- Whole grain crackers or pretzels
- Trail mix made from cereal, nuts and dried fruit
From Kara: Rather than buying those little expensive jars of baby food, what do you recommend as first foods that I can make at home?
Fresh Baby's Response: Basic first baby foods include:
Cereal: Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley
Veggies: Acorn Squash, Butternut Squash Green Peas, Sweet
Fruits: Apples, Bananas, Pears,
All of these foods can be simply made at home.
For cereals: Cook the grains (i.e. brown rice), puree with breast milk, formula, or water until smooth (pudding-like texture) using a blender/food processor. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze in single serving cubes.
For fruits and veggies: Wash and remove skins. Cook by steaming on stove top or in the microwave, Puree with all cooking juices until smooth (pudding-like texture) using a blender/food processor. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze in single serving cubes.
From Liesl: I read your article on StorkNet - Make the Most of Your Child's Day. You gave us some good ideas for making time for a healthy breakfast. I'm wondering if you can give some example for which kinds of breakfast foods you can prepare in advance? I'm not the most handy or creative person in the kitchen! Thank you!
Fresh Baby: There are many breakfast foods that can be made ahead, frozen and heated up quickly in a toaster oven. These foods include: waffles, pancakes, french toast, breakfast burritos. Quiche or strada, and muffins. Once the foods are cooked, let them cool down and wrap them in individual serving sizes (for example, stack pancakes with a piece of plastic wrap between each pancake, or place one or two waffles in a zippered freezer bag).
You can also have quick breakfast foods handy in the refrigerator and pantry, these foods include: hard boiled eggs, fresh fruits, yogurt, oatmeal, granola, nuts, peanut butter, and dry cereals (not the sugar-filled kind).
If your children insist on the sugary cereals, buy the ones with the least amount of sugar by reading the nutrition labels on the box. You can also compromise - buy a low sugar box of cereal like Cheerios and mix it with a sugary one, mixed it up in advance and store it in a container. This way you control the amount of sugared cereal.
A healthy breakfast should consist of:
- Whole grains
- Fruit or vegetable
Here are some examples of healthy breakfasts that use a combination of make ahead frozen, refrigerator and pantry items:
- Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs, black beans, and salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla, and a glass of orange juice
- Toasted English muffin, a hard boiled egg, a glass of milk, and a bowl of strawberries
- Bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk, and a banana
- Buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, a bowl of melon, and a glass of milk
- Bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and milk, and glass of orange juice
- Yogurt, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a handful of raisins
- Piece of spinach quiche, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a handful of blueberries
- Peanut Butter and apple slices, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a glass of milk.